IBM's integrated alternative to the HP 3000, called the iSeries for several years, has been through a name change once more. Don't call IBM or a reseller to ask about an eServer iSeries; ask for the System i5. IBM added the i5 designation in 2004 to the server that most of the market knows as the AS/400. Now it's dropped iSeries, just as the installed base of IBM customers most similar to the 3000 community was getting used to calling their system by the newer name.
There's been other changes at the IBM division that manages the iSeries, er, System i5. After having been through two general managers in as many years, the group saw an unscheduled resignation of its VP of marketing, Peter Bingaman. IBM brushed off the departure — this too was the second of as many marketing VPs as years in iSeries-land — by saying what better time for new VP Elaine Lennox to take over: Just as the new systems were rolling out.
Although there's been a lot of change in the i5 offering, much of it seems to have been for the good. The server had a tough fourth quarter with revenues down 18 percent, as customers waited for the new hardware to come available. The HP 3000's performance in 2000 might have weathered the same hit, while customers put the brakes on 9x9 purchases while they waited for the A-Class and N-Class systems. IBM delivered its more powerful systems on time, however, without a struggle to meet engineering goals.
The rugged Q4 numbers meant the i5/iSeries/AS/400 saw only a 1 percent increase on 2005 for its business, even though sales were up 25 percent for Q3. HP 3000 sites who consider the iSeries usually wonder how long the server can hold out in a Unix-Linux-Windows world. IBM's been insistent on upgrading the technology in the iSeries and making it play easily with those three more popular environments.
Unlike what HP had to do to roll out its N-Class systems, IBM is letting customers stay on their current OS releases while they use the new System i5s, which are expected to come available next week. An entry-level Model 520 has the new POWER5+ CPU at a 1.9GHz clock speed. But like the HP 3000 models, the 520s have a governor that throttles them back. The difference? You can pay IBM an extra $13,500 and get use of Accelerator for System i5 that removes the "governor." HP has been adamant that the hamstrung N and A server models of the 3000 will never see such an upgrade option.
The unaccelerated models run about $21,000, while the faster versions come in at just over $35,000. Since it's an integrated solution, these ship with the software you need to put them to work. Most people buy into the server line through an application provider, so the total quote will run higher.
The new chip at the heart of the i5 runs at reduced power, just like the forthcoming Montecito processor that will power the latest HP Integrity servers once Intel ships the chips to HP. That will happen sometime this year, kicking off a race to reduce the wattage your servers use. HP and Intel claim to have a superior entry coming in 2008 with Tukwila, a processor that can idle at miniscule power when it's not in use. Itanium's future in Integrity is wedded close to any success the project will realize. We'll have more on that in our podcast tomorrow, examining the extra $7 billion HP and its Itanium partners pledged to the chip — an essential element of your future if your company is making the shift to HP-UX.